Museum für Tierkunde
Senckenberg Dresden

Königsbrücker Landstr. 159
D-01109 Dresden

phone (office): +49 (0)351 7958414301

Research associate at the Herpetology Section, Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Bonn

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I am a herpetologist interested in biodiversity, ecology, and conservation. My research focuses on ecology and phylogeography of turtles and tortoises and on species distribution modelling.



Research positions and teaching

Awards and grants

Field research experience




Conservation ecology of turtles and tortoises

Although some chelonian species have been revealed to provide important ecosystem services, e.g. by contributing to seed dispersal and germination, the natural history of most turtles and tortoise species remains unexplored, especially in the tropics. Ecological research investigating thermal ecology, feeding ecology, and movement patterns directly contribute to successful reinforcement, reintroduction, and conservation management. My research focuses on the analyses of movement and habitat use patterns of freshwater turtles and tortoises to understand how they utilize their habitat and how they disperse. Another major aspect of my ecological research is the connectivity between populations, which, combined with knowledge on habitat use, can identify isolated populations with a higher extinction risk and guide the planning of effective conservation areas.

Phylogeography of turtles and tortoises

Phylogeographic research aims at the characterization of the spatial distribution of species or species groups and exploring the historical processes shaping it. By putting genetically distinct units that are genealogically linked through shared ancestors into a spatial context, the biogeographic history of a species or species group provides implications about historical events that have shaped the observed patterns. I apply phylogeographic techniques to detect evolutionary lineages or clusters in widespread tortoise and freshwater turtle species and to subsequently explain the observed distributional patterns. In case of the Southeast Asian Snail-eating turtles of the genus Malayemys this yielded a so far unrecognized species. North American turtle species exhibit patterns of range expansion, contraction, and fragmentation during the Quaternary that are strongly congruent with phylogeographic differentiation. However, my recent research on North-American map turtles of the genus Graptemys revealed only few evolutionary lineages with little genetic diversity and therefore challenges the present inflated taxonomy of this genus.

Species distribution modelling

Species distribution modelling (SDM) is a powerful tool to determine the distribution patterns of species on various spatial and temporal scales. Using occurrence records in combination with biological meaningful environmental predictors, such as bioclimatic variables or remote sensing data, these models are used to characterize the distribution of a species in environmental space, which can then be projected into geographical space. Basic SDM approaches help to identify potentially suitable habitats in order to guide further field exploration and help to assess the effectiveness of protected areas. I also study temporal changes in species’ distributions by projecting these models onto past or future climatic conditions. By implementing future climate change scenarios, we can investigate the impact of climate change e.g. onto global chelonian species richness and distribution or the invasive potential of alien species. Projections of SDMs onto paleoclimatic reconstructions allow to infer historical distribution patterns and to test refugial hypotheses, which eventually can detect past shifts of a species’ distribution and helps to understand how intraspecific divergences have evolved.


Publications in ‘peer-reviewed’ journals

  1. Dawson, J.E., Ihlow, F., van Dijk, P.P. & K. Thirakhupt (2018) Malayemys macrocephala (Gray 1859) - Malayan Snail-eating Turtle, Rice-field Terrapin. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H, van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B. & R.A. Mittermeier (eds.) Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs, 5(12): 108.1-16. doi:10.3854/crm.5.108.macrocephala.v1.2018
  2. Ward, M., Ihlow, F., Nadolski, B., Crane, M.S., Knierim, T., Artchawakom, T. & C.T Strine (2018) First record of male combat in the Elongated Tortoise Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1853) from north-eastern Thailand. Herpetology Notes, 11: 585-587. PDF
  3. Vamberger, M., Hofmeyr, M.D., Ihlow, F. & U. Fritz (2018) In quest of contact: phylogeography of helmeted terrapins (Pelomedusa galeata, P. subrufa sensu stricto). PeerJ, 6: e4901. doi:10.7717/peerj.4901
  4. Praschag, P., Ihlow, F., Flecks, M., Vamberger, M. & U. Fritz (2017) Diversity of North American map and sawback turtles (Testudines: Emydidae: Graptemys). Zoologica scripta, 2017: 1-8. doi:10.1111/zsc.12249
  5. Courant, J., Vogt, S., Marques, R., Measey, J., Secondi, J., Rebelo, R., De Villiers, A., Ihlow, F., De Busschere, C., Backeljau, T., Rödder, D. & A. Herrel (2017) Are invasive populations characterized by a broader diet than native populations? PeerJ, 5: e3250. doi:10.7717/peerj.3250
  6. Rödder, D., Ihlow, F., Courant, J., Secondi, J, Herrel, A., Measey, G.J., Lillo, F., de Villiers, F.A., De Busschere, C. & T. Backeljau (2017) Global realized niche divergence in the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis. Ecology and Evolution, 7: 4044–4058. doi:10.1002/ece3.3010
  7. Javanbakht, H., Ihlow, F., Jablonski, D., Široký, M., Fritz, U., Rödder, D., Sharifi, M. & P. Mikulíček (2017) Genetic diversity and Quaternary range dynamics in Iranian and Transcaucasian tortoises. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 121: 627-640. doi:10.1093/biolinnean/blx001
  8. Vogt, S., de Villiers, F.A., Ihlow, F., Rödder, D. & J. Measey (2017) Competition and feeding ecology in two sympatric Xenopus species (Anura: Pipidae). PeerJ, 5: e3130; doi:10.7717/peerj.3130
  9. Rahn, A.K., Eßer, E., Reher, S., Ihlow, F., MacColl, A.D.C. & T.C.M. Bakker (2016) Distribution of common stickleback parasites on North Uist, Scotland, in relation to ecology and host traits. Zoology, 119: 395-402. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2016.05.009
  10. Ihlow, F., Courant, J., Secondi, J., Herrel, A., Rebelo, R., Measey, J., Lillo, F., de Villers, A., Vogt, S., Backeljau, T., de Busschere, C., Edwards, S. & D. Rödder (2016) Impacts of Climate Change on the Global Invasion Potential of the African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis. PLoS ONE, 11(6): e0154869. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154869
  11. Ihlow, F., Dawson, J.E., Hartmann, T. & S. Som (2016) Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1854) – Elongated Tortoise. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H, van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B. & R.A. Mittermeier (eds.) Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs, 5(9): 096.1–14. doi:10.3854/crm.5.096.elongata.v1.2016
  12. Ihlow, F., Vamberger, M., Flecks, M., Hartmann, T., Cota, M., Makchai, S., Meewattana, P., Dawson, J.E., Kheng, L., Rödder, D. & U. Fritz (2016) Integrative Taxonomy of Southeast Asian Snail-Eating Turtles (Geoemydidae: Malayemys) Reveals a New Species and Mitochondrial Introgression. PLoS ONE, 11(4): e0153108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153108
  13. Ahmadzadeh, F., Flecks, M., Carretero, M.A., Böhme, W., Ihlow F., Kapli, P., Miraldo, A. & D. Rödder (2016) Separate histories in both sides of the Mediterranean: Phylogeny and niche evolution of ocellated lizards. Journal of Biogeography, 43: 1242–1253. doi:10.1111/jbi.12703
  14. Slavenko, A., Itescu, Y., Ihlow, F. & S. Meiri (2016) Home is where the shell is: predicting turtle home range sizes. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85: 106-114. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12446
  15. Geissler, P., Hartmann, T., Ihlow, F., Rödder, D., Poyarkov, N.A. Jr., Nguyen, T.Q., Ziegler, T. & W. Böhme (2015) The Lower Mekong: an insurmountable barrier to amphibians in southern Indochina? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. doi:10.1111/bij.12444
  16. Ghaffari, H., Ihlow, F., Plummer, M.V., Karami, M., Khorasani, N., Mahroo, B.S. & D. Rödder (2014) Home range and habitat selection of the endangered Euphrates Softshell Turtle Rafetus euphraticus (Daudin, 1802) in a fragmented habitat in southwestern Iran. Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 13: 202-215. doi:10.2744/CCB-1071.1
  17. Hartmann, T., Betts, A.B., De Greef, S. & F. Ihlow (2014) First record of the rare parachute gecko Ptychozoon trinotaterra Brown, 1999 from Cambodia. Cambodian Journal of Natural History, 09/2014: 12-13.
  18. Ihlow, F., Rödder, D., Bochynek, T., Sovath, S., Handschuh, M. & W. Böhme (2014) Reinforcement as a conservation tool - assessing site fidelity and movement of the endangered elongated tortoise Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1854). Journal of Natural History, 48: 2473-2485. doi:10.1080/00222933.2014.925595
  19. Ihlow, F., Bonke, R., Hartmann, T., Geissler, P., Behler, N. & D. Rödder (2014) Habitat suitability, coverage by protected areas and population connectivity for the Siamese crocodile Crocodylus siamensis Schneider, 1801. Aquatic Conservation, 25: 544-554. doi:10.1002/aqc.2473
  20. Ihlow, F., Ahmadzadeh, F., Ghaffari, H., Taskavak, E., Hartmann, T., Etzbauer, C. & D. Rödder (2014) Assessment of genetic structure, habitat suitability and effectiveness of reserves for future conservation planning of the Euphrates Soft-shelled Turtle Rafetus euphraticus (Daudin, 1802). Aquatic Conservation, 24: 831-840. doi:10.1002/aqc.2454
  21. van Schingen, M., Ihlow, F., Nguyen, T.Q., Ziegler, T., Bonkowski, M., Wu, Z. & D. Rödder (2014) Potential distribution and effectiveness of the protected area network for the crocodile lizard, Shinisaurus crocodilurus (Reptilia: Squamata: Sauria). Salamandra, 50: 71-76. PDF
  22. Bonke, R., Ihlow, F., Böhme, W. & D. Rödder (2014) Movement patterns of Tomistoma schlegelii in the Sekonyer Kanan River (Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia): preliminary range size estimates. Salamandra, 50: 40-52. PDF
  23. Rödder, D. & Ihlow, F. (2013) Chelonians in a changing climate: can nest site selection prevent sex ratio skews? Animal Conservation, 16: 491-492. doi:10.1111/acv.12079
  24. Rödder, D., Lawing, A.M., Flecks, M., Ahmadzadeh, F., Dambach, J., Engler, J.O., Habel, J.C., Hartmann, T., Hörnes, D., Ihlow, F., Schidelko, K., Stiels, D. & Polly, P.D. (2013) Evaluating the significance of paleophylogeographic species distribution models in reconstructing quaternary range-shifts of Nearctic chelonians. PLoS ONE, 8(10): e72855. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072855
  25. Hartmann, T., Ihlow, F., Edwards, S., Sovath, S., Handschuh, M. & W. Böhme (2013) A Preliminary Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary in Northern Cambodia. Asian Herpetological Research, 4: 36-55.
  26. Hartmann, T., Geissler, P., Poyarkov, N.A., Ihlow, F., Galoyan, E.A., Rödder, D. & W. Böhme (2013) A new species of the genus Calotes Cuvier, 1817 (Squamata: Agamidae) from southern Vietnam. Zootaxa, 3599: 246-260. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3599.3.3
  27. Ihlow, F., Dambach, J., Engler, J., Flecks, M., Hartmann, T., Nekum, S., Rajaei, H. & D. Rödder (2012) On the brink of extinction? How climate change may affect global Chelonian species richness and distribution. Global Change Biology, 18: 1520-1530. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02623.x
  28. Ihlow, F., Geissler P., Sovath S., Handschuh, M. & W. Böhme (2012) Feeding ecology of Indotestudo elongata (Blyth 1853) in the wild in Cambodia and Vietnam. Herpetology Notes, 5: 5-7. PDF

Selected publications in other journals

  1. Ihlow, F. & J. Dawson (2016) Ecological research and conservation status of turtles at the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve in central Cambodia. Testudo, 8: 13-25.
  2. Ihlow, F. (2016) 1, 2, oder 3 - Diversität und Verbreitung der Sumpfschildkröten der Gattung Malayemys. Sacalia, 14: 39-50.
  3. Ihlow, F. & J. Dawson (2016) Fang und Handel der aquatischen Schildkröten im Tonlé Sap Biosphären Reservat in Zentralkambodscha. Schildkröten im Fokus, 13: 23-31.
  4. Ihlow, F. (2015) Bewegingspatronen en voedingsecologie van de Maleisische slakkeneter (Malayemys subtrijuga) Schlegel & Müller, 1844. Trionyx, 12: 118-124.
  5. Ihlow, F. (2013) Geographische Variation der Gelbkopf-Landschildkröte Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1854). Testudo, 22: 7-19.
  6. Ihlow, F. (2011) Die Schildkrötenfauna Kambodschas. Schildkröten im Fokus, 8: 23-35.
  7. Ihlow, F. (2011) Kambodscha, ein Königreich der Wunder - Feldherpetologische Arbeit an Indotestudo elongata. Marginata, 8: 29-41.
  8. Ihlow, F. & M. Handschuh (2011) Auswilderung von Indotestudo elongata im Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary im Norden Kambodschas. Marginata, 8(4): 16-23.
  9. Ihlow, F., Handschuh, M. & M. Raffel (2011) Haltung und Nachzucht der Gelbkopf-Landschildkröte (Indotestudo elongata) im Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), Kambodscha. Marginata, 8(4): 24-30.